‘We’re fixing Labor’s NBN mess,’ says Turnbull


news Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has avoided directly answering the question of whether he still stands behind the NBN company’s existing cost estimates with respect to its use of HFC cable and copper technologies, instead claiming that the Coalition Government was cleaning up the NBN “mess” which he said Labor had created.

As part of the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix approach to the National Broadband Network, the NBN company has bought the HFC cable networks owned by Telstra and Optus. In Optus’ case, the network buy came at a cost of some $800 million.

However, internal documents leaked this afternoon have revealed that the NBN company is considering overbuilding the Optus HFC cable network, in a move which dramatically validates long-standing criticism that the HFC cable technology could not meet Australia’s future broadband needs.

The documents — dated 3 November — openly state that Optus’ HFC network is “not fully fit for purpose”. The document explicitly states that some 470,000 premises in the Optus HFC cable footprint would need to be overbuilt, with a significant impact to the NBN company’s peak funding requirement ranging between $150 million and $600 million. The document also explicitly states that the NBN company will miss its financial year 2017-2018 HFC ready for service target.

This afternoon, Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare asked Turnbull in Question Time whether he could “guarantee” that all of the ‘Multi-Technology Mix’ technologies which the Coalition is introducing for the NBN — “including HFC” — would not blow out in costs any further.

In response, Turnbull mocked Clare for not asking him more questions over the two years Turnbull was Communications Minister.

“I really thank the honourable member for the question. That was very generous of him,” Turnbull said.

The Prime Minister went on to attack Labor’s implementation of the NBN, which he described as ” a shockingly reckless failure of policy and process”. “When they embarked on the project, they had no idea what it would cost, and they had no idea how long it would take,” said Turnbull.

The Prime Minister said Labor had committed the Government to a “staggeringly ambitious project” with little research, describing it as ” the craziest thing done by the Labor Party in six years of misgovernment”.

“Now, as is the lot of the Liberal and National parties, we’ve inherited this mess, and we’ve had to clean it up,” said Turnbull.

“Most bad projects get worse, this one is getting better. And it’s getting better because we changed the management, we changed the board, we gave them the flexibility to get on with the job.”

Turnbull said for the first time, the NBN company now actually knew what the NBN project would cost. In contrast, he said, the NBN project would be completed under the Coalition for $30 billion less and between six eight years sooner than if Labor’s plan had been continued with.

However, the release of the leaked NBN document detailing increased costs associated with using Optus’ network appears to show that the Coalition may not have as concrete a grasp on the NBN’s costs under the MTM model as it has assumed.

Former NBN chief executive Mike Quigley also recently released detailed analysis earlier this month showing that the up to $15 billion blowout in the cost of the NBN was primarily due to the HFC cable and copper technologies being used as part of the MTM mix approach.

It is not currently clear whether Turnbull was aware of the Optus HFC cable problems — and the associated cost blowout — when he was answering Clare’s questions.

The internal NBN document detailing the Optus issues was released towards the end of Question Time. It does not appear that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was aware of the document — or the issues it contains — when he was asked similar questions during Senate Question Time today.

In his response to similar questions in the Senate, Fifield reaffirmed his faith in the fitness of the HFC cable technology for use with respect to the NBN project, specifically stating that the Optus HFC cable network would be used.


  1. “I really thank the honourable member for the question. That was very generous of him,”
    Now watch me not answer the question at all by babbling the same sh!t I’ve been babbling for 3 years.
    Yawn I thought Turnbull was a smart man, really deep down when you get to him, he’s just a bully with no guts

    • Or he’s pointing out that they are going through the process correctly now. I know this is a Union sponsors but your could at least have some kind of balance in your article. I know Renai LeMay would argue with anything less that gold plated infrastructure reality is it would have cost a lot more than Labor were saying get over it the country couldn’t afford it. They can’t afford the current format but were pushed into a corner to make it happen. We should have just fixed the system we currently have which would have cost so much less and provided the requirements everyone needs until wireless takes over. With Nokia now taking on Artemis’s PCell you can’t deny that this will be a valid option in the coming year. Well before either NBN was capable of being finished… This is actually an option now… http://www.optus.com.au/shop/broadband/home-wireless-broadband/plans

      • Well linked Chris. Just $80/mth (+auto top-up) for 60GB all at UP T0 5/1 or maybe U-T 12/1Mb/s. Sign me up!
        Just a pity that same Optus service mostly struggled to maintain even 1Mb/s on a rooftop antenna with constant drop-outs & downloads re-starting to devour that allowance without ever finishing here at 2430.
        Obviously so much better for everyone’s needs than now being stuck on our present FW wireless 25/5 NBN at $59.90/mth for 200GB at a steady delivery of over 20/4Mb/s.

        • fw wireless? if you have wireless via NBN then I would go with that. I’m just pointing out the fact that data is getting cheaper and cheaper on the LTE networks. That combine with Artemis would mean LTE would be better than any NBN… I can get 450Mbps on my Telstra mobile… It’s all about the backhual. Can’t wait to be bale to watch Full hd video on my phone anywhere I go… o hang on I can and do…

      • Renai used to think that Malcolm Turnbull’s Mtm was the duck’s nuts, but now he sees the light.

        • We all make mistakes – TurnBull’s Jobsian level charm skillz are apparently hard to combat.

      • absolute rubbish we cant afford it. it is paid for out of monthly subscriber rates (where it earns more over lifetime) and savings on maintenance – see further Verizon deciding they will roll out no more copper (dsl/HFC) finding there is a 60% saving on maintenance and other costs in their FTTP network! it is a false claim.

      • Man its sad when people see the $29-30B in taxpayer investment and then the overall costs (raised by getting a loan) and just say we can’t afford it through complete ignorance.

        Its an investment. You know that super fund of your’s its like saying you can’t afford that basically its bankrupting you etc.

        The whole point is that this GBE is meant to return a profit to taxpayers over time (which turns out far better with that gold plating that without and significantly so). Its also not gold plating. The added expense comes pretty well from the labour component (there’s an extra site visit for each FttP etc). Labour only gets more expensive over time so waiting around to do it right just ends up costing far far more the longer you delay.

        Also the ‘gold plating’ so far is returning much larger than expected returns (ARPU is up from $36 to $40 and recent MTM leaked documents suggest the fibre footprint could hit $48 potentially).

        Then the uneducated also complain about the bush getting a raw deal (They are sadly just moreso under the LNP) and the nationals (ie the N in LNP) are meant to be looking after them! Sadly the revenue that would have been used when the NBN was making money to extend fibre out to close to 100% from the 93% are now going to be used to extend fibre from the 20% to somewhere well short of the 93% mark but hey wireless will save them LTE will be awesome (except it seems not even Telstra has any form of coverage in their area’s).

        They can kiss goodbye to anything other than satellite or fixed wireless for the next 20 odd years now.

    • Now now lets not round up it was $800million (it’ll cost half to 2/3rds to fix just the bits Telstra isn’t already over built on too)

  2. “When they embarked on the project, they had no idea what it would cost, and they had no idea how long it would take,” said Turnbull.

    As opposed to the MTM, which, after only two years, is already 5+ years behind schedule and ~$26 billion over budget…

    • Im so sick of these lying bastards trotting out these blatant lies under privilege in question time, makes me sick!!!

      • yeah at least with Quigleys lot the revisions and missed targets were public whether it was good news or bad. could they have been more public and transparent probably but with this new lot being uber ‘transparent’ I’ll take the former honest and guarded any day.

  3. Wow, I know politics is a dirty game, but this just proves that even the more liberal/progressives within the conservatives have no foresight nor honesty, either, FFS.

    The two biggies IMO…

    Just how does anyone equate fixing mess, i.e. a small hold up of months, from a start-up company rolling out FttP – the biggest construction build in our history… with a massive hold-up of years, by a replacement company who already had the start-ups foundations in place for them, rolling out lesser MTM?

    Just how does anyone equate the (UPTO, lol) $15B blow out for MTM vs. on budget FttP… again from a company who already had the start-ups foundations in place for them, rolling out lesser MTM, as fixing mess?

    • It has nothing whatsoever to do with the project itself and everything to do with controlling the conversation. As long as they stay on message and the media keep repeating their rhetoric uncritically (because 99.9% of news media are comprehensively incapable of understanding or analysing the NBN, apparently), then they will continue to control the public’s understanding and opinion of the topic. The facts are utterly irrelevant if:
      A) you get to control what is considered ‘fact’, and thus write history the way you want it told, and
      B) there are utterly no consequences for your fraud, no matter who gets into power.

      As long as there are no penalties, there is no responsibility. Indeed, you can even make the argument that they have an obligation to do whatever it takes to get their agenda through as long as they don’t break any laws. As they get to write the laws and the Opposition isn’t willing to do anything that will jeopardise their own governance, then we’re not likely to see a situation where they could even be perceived to be in breach of any laws. The status quo is self perpetuating. It will take a sea change in political power holders before this situation changes substantially.

      In the mean time, expect absolutely zero movement from the LNP on this issue regardless of the argument, facts and evidence laid out against them, unless public opinion swings wildly and the vast majority of the population start getting really angry about this. After several weeks to months of spiralling polling they will be forced to respond to the change in conversation. But that’s not going to happen, so their message will remain one of obstructionist denial, obtuse dissembling and outright fabricated histrionics right up until, during, and after the election. Hell, I don’t see them admitting they were wrong even spending twenty years in a cage.

      So accept this, accept that they will be entirely unreasonable and irrational and the only way to progress is to eliminate them from the conversation. Conservatives are nothing less than a toxic blight on rationality. Stop pretending these are people we can have a rational conversation with and accept they are simply a cancer to either be kept at bay or removed with prejudice before it kills the rest of us.

      • Read your post and the plain truth in it makes for a sad panda.

        Well actually, it’s the second paragraph that is the depressing point – there is no opposition will in politics to do anything about it. For anybody else reading and you have energy to spare complaining about the NBN, work out how to solve this point and you’ll do us all a massive favour.

  4. 1) Make a mess
    2) Do lots of busy work “fixing” it
    3) Achieve nothing after 2 years
    4) Make more of a mess
    5) State proudly that you’re cleaning up somebody else’s mess

    [Insults redacted]

    • Edward Packard in the 80’s Choose Your own Adventure series had a great line. From memory it was in the book “The Black Hole” where you vanish into another universe in a space ship. There was a part where you land on a planet where there are useless wars. Packard has a soldier say to you:

      “Politicians create problems so that they can claim the credit for fixing them”.

    • To be fair they spent 2 years buying something they still don’t know the condition of, got to love those sight unseen buyers! I guess we’re lucky the Telstra HFC is in better nick (probably due to foxtel needing it so) or the Aussie Taxpayer would be really screwed.

  5. Most bad projects get worse, this one is getting better. And it’s getting better…

    How is blowing 800million on something not fit for purpose ‘getting better’. You will burn in the royal commission turnbull, zero due diligence and a total waste of taxpayer money

  6. “It is not currently clear whether Turnbull was aware of the Optus HFC cable problems — and the associated cost blowout — when he was answering Clare’s questions.”

    As if that would make the slightest difference.

    • This!

      Turnbull has told blatant lies about every aspect of the NBN since day one! Not only is he protecting Murdoch, he’s lining his mates pockets via dodgy reviews and plum consulting gigs in the NBN!

  7. Thieving mongrel. The greatest heist this country has ever seen to defend Murdoch.

  8. And this is why I call them the coalition clowns.

    They make me laugh. SO MUCH.

    Fixing Labor’s mess. Good one Turnbull.

    Labor’s “mess” was baking an apple pie.

    “Fixing it” is coming in and turning off the oven, replacing the apple filling with faeces and then proclaiming a “spectacular turnaround”

    yep, you guys fixed it alright. Good job.

  9. Honestly, who do they think they’re fooling with this nonsense?
    The ONLY people that are fooled at this point are the people with zero interest in the project anyway.
    Anyone with even a very basic understanding of how the internet and data speeds work KNOW, not suspect, KNOW what an incredibly crock this is.
    FTTN/Mixed Tech is simply NOT the intelligent way to go here. I used to think it was that they were stupid and didn’t understand what they were doing but NO ONE is THIS stupid. Someone ( or more likely a group of people) are getting rich from this mess and they’re doing so at the expense of our countries communication and information infrastructure. They are effectively hamstringing us for decades to come.

    What’s more is that they try to pretend that this option is just as good as a full fiber solution.
    If that is so, then I ask why you can apply for an individual upgrade to FTTP ( at your own expense ofc) later on down the track?
    Not only are these people getting rich from whatever shady deal and assurances they’ve made people as this already obsolete network goes in, they have doubled up and set themselves up to make even more when people inevitably realise that FTTN is NOT good enough.
    Seriously, I need someone to answer that. If FTTN/Mixed tech really is good enough, why offer the upgrade at all?
    It sickens me. This needs to be investigated at the highest level. It absolutely reeks.

    • http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/technology-choice-program.html

      If anyone reads my comment and didn’ know about the upgrade option ( which isn’t a guarantee, you can apply though, I’m not sure what the acceptance rate is) there it is.

      It seems to add up to 660 dollars just to apply and get a price quote. I’ve no idea what the average quote would be but I’d guess it’s not cheap if you pay that just to get them to have a look. For the average middle/middle low income I would say it’s almost prohibitively expensive though.

  10. Turnbull’s current rhetoric: “This is the first time the NBN co management actually knows how much the NBN costs. The previous management had no idea… etc etc”

    Funny how his management who now “know” the costs for the NBN, didn’t know the costs when they made the decision to change it to the MTM. They made the decision to change it BEFORE they could have known the costs. In fact chances are the previous management had a better idea of the costs before the new management came in and changed to the MTM, given they changed to MTM practically immediately.

    • Shush, you can’t be bringing logic and reason into this! Who do you think you are? There is no place in this discussion for common sense. Sheesh!

    • MT is a protected species on Q&A, where he was a serial performer.
      How many times did he appear and not a single question was asked of him about his (initially shadow) Communications portfolio?
      I tried. I sent in video questions asking him (very politely) about his fraudulent alternative.

      Like you, Eric, I concluded that he must have been guaranteed no NBN questions, else he would not come on.
      The encyclical banning NBN discussion must have come from Mark Scott himself.

  11. Making a mess on top of another mess is not what you really call ‘fixing’, Turnbull!

  12. MT following in TA’s footsteps: When asked a question to which there’s no good political answer, blame Labour. TA usually used it regarding the economy or ‘the boats’, MT now recycling it for NBN, he can’t even be honest now that he’s free of TA’s leash.

    How long have they been in power? How long does it take before the mess is cleaned up and they take responsibility for its current status?

    Personally, I’d prefer it to be in a ‘mess’ under Labour governance because at least they were pointing towards a better destination.

    • They cleaned up the ‘mess’ that was the Labor NBN fiber build by turning it into a complicated mess by adding another 3 networks to it.

    • Politicians could actually lose their jobs or worse so its unlikely to ever happen as a result. Bit like how none of their super or pay increases ever gets anything but passed straight through the houses ;).

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